The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Goodbye Pestle and Mortar

Photo: Wooden hammer and spices

Photo: Wooden hammer and spices

I bought my pestle and mortar about 20 years ago when I was more interested in the kit than the cooking. It lay, a boxed virgin under the kitchen sink for at least ten years. Then Danny released it from it’s brown cardboard tomb. He ground some spices, it took quite a while. He pushed the P&M right to the back of the cupboard – the place where kitchen equipment goes to die. And we forgot all about it.

Danny is away in Wales on business. I’m spending my time lounging and sleeping upstairs and developing a new Mango Chutney – recipe to follow soon.

At seven this evening I made an extended foray into the back of the cupboard searching for the stone P&M. I drew a blank but spotted a sturdy wooden hammer. Bought back from Hero along with an excellent potato recipe many years before.

I rolled up the spices in a piece of cheap kitchen roll. Then I administered the hammer. With several heartfelt thwacks I had reduced the spices to the consistency that I wanted. This would have taken twice the time in the pestle and mortar and not given me nearly so much fun.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello KarenO

    That’s interesting. I would have thought that method would work.

    Hi James P

    Thanks for that. I’ve never heard of Joanna Budwig. Must check out the linseed oil in the health food shop.

    Diet is now being taken far more seriously for preventing/treating/containing cancer. At long last.

  2. “Tell me about flax seeds”

    Not a lot to tell, really. We got interested in linseed oil after reading about Dr Johanna Budwig, who treated cancer with (don’t laugh) a mixture of linseed oil and cottage cheese. She wrote extensively about this, but naturally got ignored by the medics, even though she had several nominations for the Nobel Prize. She did this work in the 50’s and only died quite recently, aged nearly 100, so I suspect she knew what she was talking about.

    Anyway, you have to choose your linseed oil carefully, as the stuff for cricket bats isn’t really food grade (it’s extracted with solvents) and I thought a way round it might be to start with the seeds, but they are amazingly tough! Some health food shops sell cold-pressed flax oil, which is fine, if a tad expensive. Still rather easier than doing it yourself, though…

  3. I ground flax seeds in my coffee grinder but they were still unpalatable – yuk

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi James P

    Our kitchen surfaces are quite tough so they survive. The paper doesn’t seem to split either but then I don’t want fine ground bits.

    Tell me about flax seeds. We made healthy brown dried breadcrumbs out of bread dusted with flax seeds. We processed them in the Magimix and produced tiny razor blades!

  5. We don’t use our P&M very often, but it seems the only thing that works for peppercorns, which we occasionally smash up for a pepper steak recipe. I think if we did it with a hammer and kitchen roll it would a) damage the worktop and b) end up blended with paper bits.

    I’d be interested to know if anyone has succeeded in breaking up flax seeds (linseed), though. I’m told that these stay undigested (so not very beneficial) if you eat them whole, but they are very small and tough, and hard to break, even with a P&M.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Kate(uk)

    Ahh, so that’s what people use them for…

    Hi Katyvic

    Thanks for the tip about the sea salt.

    Hello Belinda

    The wooden hammer only vanished about six moths ago and I’ve been using whole or ground spices. It was only when I ran out of ground that I decided to search for the P&M!

  7. I find myself wondering what you have been doing to grind spices for the past 20 years Fi? If the M&P was in the cupboard along with the wooden hammer what have you been doing?

    I have occasionally used a heavy glass or ceramic object to smash things on chopping boards, esp garlic but I use my M&P all the time, esp for grinding cumin seed.

  8. Yes, the pestle and mortar is brilliant for grinding up peppercorns with fresh garlic, though it helps to put a pinch of sea-salt in to give some purchase.

    Dry ingredients don’t work nearly so well (end up bouncing all over the kitchen, too!).

  9. kate (uk)

    I was going to make mango chutney today- think I’ll wait a bit…
    I find the pestle and mortar useful for squashing green spices- like fresh coriander seeds, but not for dry spices. The thwacking method is infinitely superior for them!

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